Uptown’s section of the Midtown Greenway looks markedly different than it did five years ago. Four new apartment projects overlook the trail. Dog-walkers travel new sidewalks between Lyndale and Hennepin, and a new pedestrian bridge is open between Dupont and Emerson.
Most projects near Uptown and LynLake report they were full within a year of opening, with rents starting at $1,400 for smaller units. Construction is nearly complete at Elan, where staff said 203 units in the first phase of the project are 94 percent full, and the 387-unit second phase is 55 percent leased. Flux leased up in five months. The Lime Apartments are 97 percent full, Track 29 is full, and so is The Walkway. Be @ The Calhoun Greenway, located west of Lake Calhoun, was full last year, though leases are expiring in bulk at the moment.
“We did fill up very quick,” said Joe Kwiatkowski, controller for The Walkway’s Detailed Management. “The demand in this whole Uptown area is really unbelievable.”
Thomas Fisher, the outgoing dean of College and Design at the University of Minnesota, noted in a recent Star Tribune article that developers have invested more than $200 million along the greenway in the past decade.
“People increasingly want to live by such amenities, and the transformation of the former industrial area into one of the city’s hottest housing locations, in such a short time, testifies to the power of a place like this,” he wrote.
Maxfield Research President Mary Bujold said apartment demand still appears to be strong in Southwest Minneapolis. Empty nesters are renting earlier in life, she said, while young professionals are renting longer in life.
“More people are preferring to rent because they want more flexibility,” she said.
Maxfield reports that the first-quarter 2015 average rent rate in Southwest Minneapolis is $1,001, up from $995 in 2014 and $913 in 2013. The average vacancy rate in Southwest stands at 1.8 percent, down from 2.7 percent in 2014 and 2.1 percent in 2013.
Soren Jensen, executive director at the Midtown Greenway Coalition, said he’s pleased with the new apartment designs.
“They treat the greenway as their front yard,” he said. “It creates eyes on the greenway, and it creates a vibrant corridor.”
Elan is finishing up construction on amphitheater seating and an area alongside the greenway to sit and relax. Elan is one of the meeting points for this year’s Greenway Glow on June 20, hosting a performance by the Twin Cities String Academy.
The large-scale changes haven’t gone unnoticed in the community.
“There is a lot more of everything,” said Tim Dray, a resident of The Wedge — more cars, more partying, more dogs, “you name it.”
“It’s like a campus without the classroom,” he said. “I know that Uptown is making more money than it’s ever made, but it’s got to start taking care of some of the consequences.”
Uptown Association Executive Director Maude Lovelle said she thinks the business community is feeling the impact.
“I’m hearing a lot of favorable comments about the influx of residents in these developments,” she said. “Businesses believe they are shopping local.”
In the case of Track 29, shopping is taking place inside the development as well. The building hosts art openings and artist talks, with first-floor pieces for sale curated by artist and Science Museum staffer Jan Elftmann. The next opening is June 25, featuring Jim Proctor and Pat and Gage Kruse. The Kruses are a father-son Native American team who work with birch bark and sew the compositions with deer sinew.
Amenities vary a bit at the new luxury buildings, though all of them have pools. The Walkway has a concierge, a private bar and a smartphone app for requesting a late-night snack or sending the dog for a nail clipping. Elan has a yoga studio, hundreds of “fitness on demand” classes and a poker room. Lime has the Marché café on the ground floor and a rooftop deck with downtown views.
“Like the other projects, the proximity to LynLake and Uptown is probably the No. 1 selling amenity,” said Josh Brandsted, Greco project manager.
After three years of construction, Elan’s grand opening is June 11 with live music, self-guided tours, and a “Taste of Uptown” featuring restaurants like coup d’état and Nightingale.
Elan Community Manager Laura Longen said she expects to hit 90 percent occupancy by early fall.
“It’s been insane lately. We’re busy all the time,” she said.